Saturday, January 24, 2015

Emeril's Tchoup Chop - Universal Orlando

Today, we had lunch at Emeril's Tchoup Chop at Universal Orlando.  The restaurant is located at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, which is a short walk from Universal's Islands of Adventure.  

A couple of years ago, before I started my blog, we had dinner at Tchoup Chop, and I had one of the best salmon dishes I have ever had in a restaurant, so I was excited to go back.  

Tchoup Chop does not have a gluten free menu, but our server was extremely knowledgeable about what items on the menu were naturally gluten free, or could be modified to be gluten free.  

My first disappointment came when another server dropped off these complimentary shrimp chips, telling us that they were gluten free.  Our server quickly appeared and said that they are fried in a shared fryer, so I was not able to eat them.

We waited quite a while for our meal, even though we were the only customers in the restaurant when we ordered.  That was not a big deal to me, because I enjoy a relaxing lunch on our theme park days, but my daughters were a little impatient.  

I ordered the Loco Moco, which consists of Emeril's fried rice, a burger patty, and a fried egg.  The teriyaki-mushroom sauce served with the dish was not gluten free, but our server told me they had gluten free soy sauce.  I enjoyed the fried rice, which contained edamame, shrimp, pork, and chicken, but my burger was really overcooked.  I asked for it medium well, but I could tell that it was well done before I even tasted it.  After having an amazingly juicy burger at Burger 21 earlier this week, that was ordered cooked to the same temperature, I was disappointed.  I loved the concept of this dish, but I didn't eat half of my burger, because it was too dry to enjoy.  

For dessert, I ordered the creme brulee, but told our server that I would be sharing it with my family.  Imagine my shock when it arrived with a fried plantain garnish that I could not eat, because Tchoup Chop does not have a dedicated fryer.  I told our server that I could not eat the whipped cream and berries on the side, because of the risk of cross contamination, so he brought me a separate bowl of berries and whipped cream.  I then began to wonder if my dessert had really been prepared in a safe manner.  

My favorite part of creme brulee is the caramelized sugar on top, but this dish had what appeared to be caramel sauce drizzled across it, which I wasn't crazy about. After eating my dessert, I began to feel like I might have been slightly glutened, but I don't know if I was just being paranoid.

Last year, I heard the Lagasse Girls speak at the Gluten-Free Living Conference in Orlando.  I have been a huge fan of Emeril Lagasse for years, but I find it a little surprising that Tchoup Chop does not have a gluten free menu when his daughters Jilly and Jessie have been eating gluten free for over 10 years.

I have been wanting to return to Emeril's Tchoup Chop since reading my friend Amanda's review on her blog Eating Out...Without, but I don't think we will be dining there again.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs

Last month, a box of Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs arrived at my house.  I was really excited to try them, because of all the rave reviews I was seeing on social media from other gluten free bloggers.   

Foster Farms Gluten Free Honey Crunchy Corn Dogs are certified gluten free by the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG).  They feature a 100% chicken frank dipped twice in a honey crunchy batter.  

The first corn dog I tried was heated in the microwave for 40 seconds.  I don't have anything to compare it to, because I had never eaten a corn dog in my entire life until the Foster Farms corn dogs arrived.  I was really impressed, because it reminded me of a quality hot dog covered in a sweet corn bread.  My husband liked it too, and was shocked when I told him the franks were made of chicken.  

The real test came when I fed them to my daughters and my Chinese international student, while my husband was in Europe.  This time, I decided to cook them in the oven on a parchment covered baking sheet for 18 minutes at 350 degrees.

My daughters did a lot of whining when I told them what we were having for dinner, even though they had never tried a corn dog before.  The whining instantly stopped after the first bite.  All my ladies asked for ketchup, and gave Foster Farms gluten free corn dogs a big thumbs up.  My twins, who I thought would only eat one, asked to split one of the extra corn dogs I made.  

My only beef with Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs is that they don't contain non-GMO corn.  As a family, we don't buy all organic or non-GMO products, but I do try to avoid genetically modified corn.  Each corn dog is only 180 calories, and as far as allergens go, they contain soy and eggs.

Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs are available nationwide at many retailers, including: Safeway (Safeway, Vons, Randalls, Tom Thumb), Kroger (Kroger, Frys, Smiths), Raleys, Lucky, Albertsons, Giant Eagle, Woodmans, Copps/Roundy's, Schnucks, Food Lion, HyVee, and Marsh.  I hope to see Publix added to this list soon.

Foster Farms sent me a complimentary box of gluten free corn dogs to review, but all the opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Have you tried Foster Farms new gluten free honey crunchy corn dogs?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Swoffle - Gluten Free Stroopwafels

Yesterday, I sampled a Swoffle for the first time.  A Swoffle is a gluten free caramel-filled waffle cookie, also known as a stroopwafel in the Netherlands.  

Swoffles are made with an organic gluten free flour blend of rice and tapioca flours, organic tapioca syrup, organic cane sugar, organic palm fruit oil, butter, liquid whole eggs, molasses, cinnamon, pure vanilla extract, sea salt, baking soda and nutmeg.  Swoffles do not contain GMO ingredients, and are free of wheat, corn, nuts, and soy, but they have an allergen warning that they contain milk and eggs.  Each Swoffle is 150 calories.  

I am sure that a Swoffle would be amazing with a cup of coffee or tea.  They are the perfect size to sit on top of a steaming beverage to warm them up, but I found them incredibly delicious enjoyed on their own.  

Swoffles have the perfect amount of creamy caramel in the center, and they have a lovely texture and chew.  I especially liked the hint of cinnamon I tasted in every bite, and that they were not overly sweet.  

I enjoyed my Swoffles so much, I haven't shared any with my family yet.  I plan on ordering a box when I am done writing this review, so maybe I will let my family try one when they arrive...or maybe I will hide them!  :-)

Swoffles are one of the best gluten free cookies I have ever tasted.  Because they are individually wrapped, they make for a great on the go snack, especially if you are going to a coffee shop.

You can purchase Swoffles on their website here.

Swoffle sent me three complimentary Dutch waffle cookies, but the opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

You can follow Swoffle on Facebook and Instagram.  

Smallcakes - Winter Park

Before Christmas break, my family visited Smallcakes in Winter Park, after having grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch at Toasted.  

Smallcakes has gluten free cupcakes available on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, but they can bake a dozen cupcakes for a special order any day of the week.  

My blog readers frequently message me about where they can get great gluten free cupcakes in Orlando.  I usually refer them to my private Facebook group, Gluten Free in Orlando, because I seldom buy cupcakes, preferring to make them instead.  Baking cupcakes from scratch is not my thing, but there are some great gluten free mixes that my whole family loves, and I always make my own frosting.  Smallcakes did not have any gluten free cupcakes on display, but they put together a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting for me in the back.  

At Smallcakes, they always make their gluten free cupcakes first thing in the morning with clean pans, in an effort to protect against cross contamination, which seems to be the standard practice for the bakeries in Orlando that have gluten free and gluten-filled cupcakes.  I have had gluten free cupcakes locally from Sweet by Holly, Gigi's Cupcakes, BabyCakes in Downtown Disney (reopening soon with a new name), Raphsodic Bakery, All from Scratch Bakery, and Mattie's Delectable Desserts.  Smallcakes has one of the best cakes, rivaled only by Sweet by Holly.  Both cupcakeries make incredibly moist chocolate cupcakes, but I give Smallcakes an overall edge, because I liked their frosting better.

If you are worried about cross contamination, BabyCakes is the only bakery in Orlando that is 100% gluten free.  I have never had an issue with feeling glutened by any of the bakeries I mentioned above.  They all take precautions to keep those with celiac and gluten intolerance safe, but the potential for cross-contamination always exists in a facility that makes both gluten-filled and gluten-free baked goods.

Smallcakes makes gluten free chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, and they can add any topping/frosting except the cookies-n-cream or the cannoli, because they contain gluten.  My family sampled some of the gluten-filled cupcakes and really enjoyed them, so we will definitely be going back next time we eat at Toasted on the weekend.

Smallcakes is located on Aloma Avenue in Winter Park, a couple of doors down from Whole Foods.

Have you been to a Smallcakes cupcakery?  What are your favorite gluten free cupcakes?